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Community Broadband Networks Lead the Way on US Ignite Partnership

Published:   June 14, 2012

Today the Obama Administration held an event to announce the creation of the US Ignite Partnership (us-ignite.org). The new, independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit has a mission to spur advanced, next-generation applications capable of operating on gigabit broadband networks over the next five years in six areas of national priority: education and workforce development, advanced manufacturing, health, transportation, public safety, and clean energy.

The Partnership includes startups, local and state governments, universities, foundations, community institutions and broadband providers. Among the broadband providers participating in the partnership are over a half-dozen networks built and owned by local communities as well as a substantial number of institutional and non-profit networks.  The launch event highlighted some of these local broadband networks, particularly those in Chattanooga, TN and Cleveland, OH, and hailed them as innovating pioneers. These members, along with the municipal network in Lafayette, LA, are featured prominently on US Ignite’s website.
“The sheer number of community and non-profit broadband networks participating in the initiative underscores that that local communities and the civic sector are on the cutting edge of Internet access and innovation in the U.S,” stated Benjamin Lennett, Policy Director for the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute.
“Though we applaud the initiative for partnering with these world-class networks, it is unfortunate that many state legislatures are hindering the development of community broadband. Currently 19 states have passed laws that prohibit or put up significant barriers to local communities building their own broadband infrastructure.
"The Federal Communication Commission has also excluded community networks from receiving support from the agency's Connect America Fund and is instead giving billions to AT&T and other large telephone companies to bring high-speed broadband to unserved rural communities. As the U.S. continues to lag behind world leaders in broadband speeds, we should be supporting these innovative, community-led initiatives not discouraging them."
For more information or to schedule an interview with Benjamin Lennett, please contact Clara Hogan at 202-596-3368 or hogan@newamerica.net

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